Letters in the Attic

( 6 )

Overview

Lizzy McMann, A feisty twelve-year-old, lives with her immature mother and Manny, her father (she thinks) in a fleabag Phoenix hotel. One night, Manny's sudden announcement that he wants a divorce forces mother and daughter to move to upstate New York to live with Lizzy's grandmother and grandfather—a mixed blessing. At school, Lizzy befriends, then falls in love with, Eva Singer, who is dyslexic, looks like Natalie Wood and lives right down the street. Like all girls her age, Lizzy has to deal with her first ...

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Overview

Lizzy McMann, A feisty twelve-year-old, lives with her immature mother and Manny, her father (she thinks) in a fleabag Phoenix hotel. One night, Manny's sudden announcement that he wants a divorce forces mother and daughter to move to upstate New York to live with Lizzy's grandmother and grandfather—a mixed blessing. At school, Lizzy befriends, then falls in love with, Eva Singer, who is dyslexic, looks like Natalie Wood and lives right down the street. Like all girls her age, Lizzy has to deal with her first period, her first bra and her first boyfriend. But what scares her most is her love for Eva. She is also concerned with getting a new husband for Mama—especially after reading Mama's letters that she has found in the attic. Then Eva gets a boyfriend and Mama's life enters what seems to be a new crisis. . . . How Lizzy comes to grips with life's strange twists and turns makes fascinating reading for adults and young readers alike.

2002 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, Children's/Young Adult.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Winning debut describes a young girl coming of age during the 1960s. ... [An] amusing tale notable for its sharp and quick-witted tone. Brisk, fun, and good-natured."
- Kirkus Reviews

"Lizzie is a charming narrator, a seventh grader hovering between naivete and experience. She notices everything ... there are enough surprizes in this appealing story to keep things interesting."
- Publishers Weekly

"Three cheers for Bonnie Shimko, whose masterful, insightful storytelling sweeps us from page to page on an emotional adventure through adolescence that is engaging, sasltisfying and ultimately inpsiring."
- Eric Marcus, co-author of Breaking the Surface and author of What If Someone I Know Is Gay?

Publishers Weekly
A young girl's growing pains include falling for another girl in Bonnie Shimko's Letters in the Attic. In the early 1960s, Lizzy McMann moves from Arizona to upstate New York with her unstable mother after her father runs off with a hatcheck girl. There she meets her grandparents for the first time and strikes up a friendship with Eva, an eighth grader "who looks like Natalie Wood and smokes." Her one-sided attraction to Eva is instant and so are the attendant feelings of shame, confusion and jealousy. Meanwhile, she begins to learn things about her family history that help shed some light on her current circumstances. Lizzie is a charming narrator, a seventh grader hovering between na vet and experience. She notices everything, and while sometimes the details tend to pile up and interfere with the flow of the narrative, there are enough surprises in this appealing story to keep things interesting. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
This debut novel provides a well-written, engrossing look at relationships. Lizzie McMann is a twelve-year-old seeking a positive relationship. She gets along well with her mother, but her father is a selfish and uncaring man. He abandons them for a younger woman, and when Lizzie's mom still refuses to see him for what he really is, Lizzie begins to resent her. They move from Arizona to a small upstate New York town where Lizzie finds true relationships. She befriends another young girl and develops romantic feelings for her, something that would not be acceptable in her town or family. Lizzie's teacher becomes the positive male influence she desperately needs when he begins dating her mother. She learns secrets from her mother's past after reading the letters in the attic that her mother has kept hidden for so many years, answers to why her mother left her parents at such a young age and why her grandmother has remained bitter. This novel is not a love story or a lesbian story. It is about all relationships, particularly mother-daughter connections, how some work and some do not. It is a tale of hope and forgiveness and letting go of the past. Lizzie is a fun, engaging character who never wallows in self-pity or lets her mother's failed associations affect her outlook on relationships in general. This commendable first novel would be a worthy addition in any library. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Academy Chicago Publishers, 194p,
— Jennifer McIntosh
Kirkus Reviews
Winning debut describes a young girl coming of age during the 1960s.

Twelve-year-old Lizzy McMann and her mother get a real kick in the head when Veronica’s husband Manny announces that he’s leaving them for a hatcheck girl. To add insult to injury, Manny tells the desk clerk at the Phoenix hotel the McManns have been living in that their room will be vacated the next day, so Lizzy and Veronica must find a new home as well as a new breadwinner. With nowhere else to turn, they move in with Veronica’s parents in upstate New York. There, in her mother’s childhood home, Lizzie discovers a cache of old letters that makes one thing clear: Manny was not her father. While piecing together the mystery of her origins, she manages to settle fairly well into her new surroundings, making friends with Eva Singer, a local physician’s daughter who soon becomes her closest confidante . . . in most things. For, in addition to the usual adolescent traumas of acne and menstruation, Lizzy seems to have suffered the indignity of falling in love with Eva. Is this just another spasm of growing pains, or a glimmer of some new light on her life’s horizon? Whatever the case may be, it is not Lizzy’s only concern. Her mother appears to be on the verge of breaking up with a charming new boyfriend—to go back to Manny! If your own mother can’t manage her life, what hope is there for you? That is how it looks to the teenaged Lizzy, who has yet to learn that most adults spend their lives repeating the mistakes they began as children. "If she were a dog, her ears would be down and her tail would be tucked between her legs," comments the narrator of this amusing tale notable for its sharp and quick-witted tone.

Brisk, fun, and good-natured.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780897335638
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 196
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Bonnie Shimko is a former teacher and the author of several novels, including The Private Thoughts of Amelia E. Rye, a 2011 ALA Best Book for Young Adults and Letters in the Attic, winner of the Lambda Literary Award. She lives in Plattsburgh, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 3, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Marta Morrison for TeensReadToo.com

    I really enjoyed reading LETTERS IN THE ATTIC, set in the early sixties. <BR/><BR/>Lizzy, the heroine, lives with her mom and dad in a Phoenix hotel. Her father comes in, a real sleezeball, and with his new girlfriend in tow, proceeds to tell her mother that he is divorcing her. He even has the gall to ask Vonnie, her mother, to apologize to his girlfriend because she isn't being nice. <BR/><BR/>Well, with no place to go home to, they head to upstate New York to Vonnie's parents' house. Lizzy meets her grandparents for the first time. Her grandfather is great, but her grandmother is verbally abusive. <BR/><BR/>There, Lizzy learns a lot about her mother's past through letters that are in the attic. She examines her sexuality and helps her mother to become the person that she is meant to be. <BR/><BR/>While reading this book I laughed, cried, and was hopeful for the characters. I really liked Lizzy and her family.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2007

    Courtesy of Teens Read Too

    I really enjoyed reading LETTERS IN THE ATTIC, set in the early sixties. Lizzy, the heroine, lives with her mom and dad in a Phoenix hotel. Her father comes in, a real sleezeball, and with his new girlfriend in tow, proceeds to tell her mother that he is divorcing her. He even has the gall to ask Vonnie, her mother, to apologize to his girlfriend because she isn't being nice. Well, with no place to go home to, they head to upstate New York to Vonnie's parents' house. Lizzy meets her grandparents for the first time. Her grandfather is great, but her grandmother is verbally abusive. There, Lizzy learns a lot about her mother's past through letters that are in the attic. She examines her sexuality and helps her mother to become the person that she is meant to be. While reading this book I laughed, cried, and was hopeful for the characters. I really liked Lizzy and her family. **Reviewed by: Marta Morrison

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2002

    Heartfelt and Sincere

    Letters in the Attic by Bonnie Shimko is one of the most emotional encounters I've ever had with a character and her circumstanes. The author presents the characters and events with empathy, understanding and compassion yet she pulls you into a time of reality for all young people who share the pain and experiences of growing up. Shimko offers the idea that one is not alone in Lizzy's situation and others share the same emotional roller-coaster ride even when they remain silent. This book will bring you to tears and you'll experience the freedom we all find eventually as we treck through life's happenings. Do yourself a favor and read Letters In The Attic. We all deserve a time to share love, joy, disappointment and triumph with all people on this planet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2002

    An absolute gem!

    Lizzy McMann is a priceless creation. Her story is the funniest, most human and touching one I have read in some time. Bonnie Shimko beautifully captures the reality of growing up, both the good and the bad. It's a story told straight from the heart. Her respect and affection for her characters is remarkable. Read it, then give it to someone you love.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2002

    Don't pigeonhole

    So why should a straight older male such as yours truly read a book about a gay teen-aged girl? 'Letters in the Attic' can be categorized as 'young adult,' 'coming of age,' 'gay teen,' whatever pigeonhole they'll pick to get a handle on it. But first and foremost it's a novel. A great novel about Lizzy McMann, a heroine for everyone. You don't feel sympathy for her; instead, you experience empathy. It's not often that a 'cynic' (to use a label) empathizes with a fictional character, especially one so unlike myself. OK, I didn't cry, but this is only Bonnie Shimko's first published novel. Maybe she'll get me with the next one. (But I did laugh out loud -- an unusual occurrence.) Even without the tears, 'Letters' is destined to become what they call a perennial favorite. And in that sense it is indeed a 'classic.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2002

    Excellent!

    Having been lucky enough to read this book before official publication, I have nothing but praise for it. It is warm, touching, sad and funny - and we genuinely come to care for Lizzy, the young heroine. If you read nothing else this year, you must read this!

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